Windows has a bevy of great app launchers available, but when it comes to power, ease of use, and configurability, Executor is our pick for the best.
- Launch programs and perform actions with just a few keystrokes
- Open documents, files and folders
- Navigate to and/or search through websites
- System functions like lock, shut down, show IP addresses, turn off monitor, and more
- Do multiple tasks at once with one keyword
- Select clipboard entries from your clipboard history, strip them of their formatting, and paste them wherever you want.
- View all recent documents
- List and manipulate running applications
- Much, much more (see the home page for more information).
Executor is very versatile. The first time you start it up, it lets you choose between indexing your files for fast and easy searches, or turning off indexing and using solely keywords for running commands. It'll even let you pick how it searches, choosing between short-form (e.g.
ffx would bring up the closest match, Firefox), "word starts with" (only
fire would bring up Firefox), or "text contains" (
fox would bring up Firefox). It has more options than you know what to do with, while staying fairly easy to configure. Like most of our favourite apps, its biggest strength is that it lets you configure it to work exactly how you want it to, without being overly advanced.
Executor, while it isn't too difficult to set up, can be a tad overwhelming when you first start using it. It's not nearly as confusing as some of the competition, and finds a good balance between features and usability, which is tough. If you choose to index your files, it can also be a little resource heavy, but that's a price you'll pay with many application launchers. Overall, its cons are few and far between, and unless you just want a simple application launcher, it's probably the most likely to make you happy.
Keybreeze might not be as versatile in the way it finds what you're looking for, but it can do quite a bit. In the end, Executor does just about everything we could want, but Keybreeze has a few extra features, like the ability to create sticky notes and do very basic text expansion, which is cool (but not really essential).
Launchy is probably the most popular application launcher. It's powerful, and has a great plug-in system that allows for lots of customisation, but even with its plugins just doesn't quite measure up in advanced features with Executor or Keybreeze. If you're looking for a simple app launcher, though, Launchy is perfect. It does what you want it to do without much configuration on your end, though it does allow for quite a bit if you're willing to dig into the settings.
Find and Run Robot is one of the most powerful apps on the list, with a ton of settings, plugins, and alias capabilities that let you customise a lot of how it works. It's a bit more difficult to set up, since it's so advanced, but it's good if you have very specific needs. It's biggest downside is that it doesn't index at all, which keeps resource usage low but can be slower to find things. Executor lets you choose, which is one of the reasons why it's just the best there is.
SlickRun is similar to Find and Run Robot in the sense that it focuses heavily on aliases, though it's much more intuitive to set everything up and use it. What you gain in usability you sacrifice in number of features, however, and once again, Executor seems to give you the best of both worlds.
Enso works a little differently than the others. Instead of hitting a key combo, you hold down the Caps Lock key, type in your command (i.e. "open firefox"), and release Caps Lock to activate it. You can activate it in a more traditional manner, too, but that's what really sets it apart. It seems strange, but you get used to it. You can also add aliases (called "favorites") and jump to any open program with its "go" command.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.